Are there community concerns about policing in Ann Arbor that could be effectively addressed by some form of police oversight?
Lack of Transparency + External Review
The job of [public safety] is incredibly complex. The sheer number of tasks a [first responder] is required to not only perform but perform well is enormous and sometimes requires contradictory skill sets. Additionally, first responders tend to have contact with people on [short notice]. Due to the nature of the work [first responders] perform, and the conditions they perform it under, much of it must remain [monitored closely]. Supervisors and first responders should always be in a state of self examination to determine if there are areas where they can be more transparent.
The Nov. ’15 HRC report states that “to file a complaint against an Ann Arbor police officer, the complainant must give it to an AAPD police officer.” The AAPD is committed to investigating all complaints about department members. Complaints are taken in person, by phone, or in writing (paper and electronically). They can be made by someone involved in the incident, an uninvolved bystander, an intermediary, or anonymously. Baird admits to have had personally initiated complaints against unknown employees for information posted on social media sites. [Filed complaints are processed and investigated.]
The HRC’s report also provides some limited statistics regarding the complaints received by the Department. This information is useful to frame the prevalence of concern about police conduct in [Ann Arbor proper].
In an effort to provide a greater context to the statistics in the report, the personnel complaints for the police department were reviewed for both 2014 and 2015. The statistics are remarkably similar from one year to the next.
For perspective, it is important to understand the scope of contact between law enforcement and residents of the community.
In 2014, the Ann Arbor Police Department had nearly 64,000 calls for service. In 2015, there were over 62,000 calls for service. Calls for service numbers include dispatched calls, police reports, traffic stops, etc. Those numbers do not include all the additional citizen contacts an officer may make during the day, which could range into the thousands if football games, Art Fair, and other high volume events are included.
When viewed in this context, the number of citizen complaints received is negligible. In 2014 the Ann Arbor Police Department had a total of 65 personnel complaints. In 2015, the total was 63. Both years, approximately half of those complaints were internal complaints, initiated by police department supervisors against [law enforcement personnel]. Many of those internal complaints (14 in 2014 and 19 in 2015) relate to at fault automobile crashes which result in damage. Department policy mandates a personnel complaint be initiated for all at fault employee crashes.
However, if analyzing the complaints in conjunction with the recommendation of a civilian review board, the complaints made by citizens against police officers are most significant. In 2014, 38 citizen complaints were brought against police officers. Ten of those complaints were found to be sustained following the investigation. It is also important to recognize that four of those complaints were made against the same officer, Jason Kitts, who resigned during the investigation of the complaints. In 2015, there were only 30 citizen complaints, with three being sustained.
Recognizing that even one sustained complaint of misconduct by law enforcement is too many, it is important to understand that improper police behavior, like that of Officer Kitts, results in discipline and discharge when appropriate. Beyond what has been stated, it is difficult to respond specifically to this section of the commission’s report as much of it speaks of hypothetical possibilities only. The report states,
“…may be disinclined to speak out,” “may fear their attempt to help will get them in trouble…with the police,” “may have reason to doubt the likelihood that any engagement with police will be beneficial,” “may be reluctant to speak,” “may hesitate to file complaints against police,’ “complaint process may not help.”
If this was true, it would absolutely warrant a closer look. However, there is nothing in the HRC report to suggest that this is the case (per usual).
Read Chief Baird’s June 2016 memo here.